Retainer Agreement Photo

What is a Retainer Agreement?

Whenever you hire a lawyer, you will likely be asked to sign a retainer agreement. A retainer agreement is a contract between the client and law firm that tells you that the law firm will represent the client in pursuing a particular legal issue and how the client will pay a legal fee to the law firm for that service. Generally speaking, there are three types of contracts for fees:

  1. Hourly Rate Retainer Agreements;
  2. Flat Fee Retainer Agreements;
  3. and Contingency Fee Retainer Agreements.

Hourly Rate Retainer Agreements

Under an hourly rate agreement your lawyer will bill for the amount of time spent working for you. The number of hours a lawyer spends in pursuing a resolution to a legal issue is multiplied by an hourly rate to arrive at the legal fee. Hourly rates vary depending on the type of legal matter and the skill level of the lawyer you hire.

Flat Fee Retainer Agreements

A flat fee agreement sets out a fixed legal fee no matter how many (or how few) hours are expended in pursuing a resolution to a legal issue.

Contingency Fee Retainer Agreements

Under a contingency fee agreement the lawyer acts for a client in return for a percentage of a lump sum settlement or trial award. If no money is recovered, there is no legal fee to pay.

Always talk fees with your lawyer at the FIRST meeting. You should always make sure a fee agreement is made in writing so no dispute arises later.

 

 

Negotiating Insurance Claims

Negotiation of Disability Claims

Negotiation involves reaching an agreement with the other side. The idea is that the agreement meets the best interests of both sides. Of course, this usually means that both sides have to make compromises. You won’t get everything you want and neither will the other side.

Know Your Bottom Line

Before you begin negotiating, figure out what your bottom line will be. That is the least you will accept in exchange for resolving the legal dispute. Never reveal your bottom line at any stage of the negotiations.

Begin your negotiations by asking for everything to which you believe you are legally entitled.

Present as many negotiable issues as you can and do not reveal their level of importance to you. That way, you can “give up” on an issue that was never really important to you to begin with. The other side will see this as a compromise and will be more willing to compromise in return.

Negotiating Without a Lawyer

If you are negotiating a legal problem without a lawyer, you should both sign an agreement first that says your negotiations are WITHOUT PREJUDICE. That means that whatever you say or write down in the process of negotiations won’t be used by either side if the matter ends up going to court.

If the negotiations fail, there are alternatives available to you other than court.

Mediation Chairs

Mediation of Insurance Denial Claims

Mediation is a voluntary process, to which both parties agree. A mediator is appointed to hear the claim. The mediator is a neutral person assigned to help the two sides reach a solution that works for both. Usually a mediation takes place in a boardroom at a neutral location. The setting is usually casual in order to relax both sides to allow for easier communication.

A mediation is conducted on a “without prejudice’ basis. This means that whatever is said at the mediation cannot be used against you if the matter were to proceed to trial. This rule encourages both parties to speak more freely.

The mediator will manage both parties to ensure that each has an opportunity to speak and listen to all the issues. The mediator may help clarify misunderstandings and make discussion of the issues less stressful.

The mediator does not “decide” or “rule” on any issues and cannot force a settlement.

Mediation only works if both parties are willing to resolve their dispute.

If one party refuses to compromise and refuses to listen then the mediation will fail.

Shredded identity theft paper

Identity Theft in BC

Every week hundreds of people fall victim to identity theft.

Identity theft is the unauthorized collection and use of your personal information, usually for criminal purposes.

Your personal information can be used to open credit card and bank accounts, redirect mail, establish cell phone service, rent vehicles or accommodation.

If this happens, you could be left with the bills, charges, bad cheques, and taxes.

Protect Yourself

  • Be careful about sharing personal information or letting it circulate freely. Only provide the bare minimum.
  • When you are asked to provide personal information, ask how it will be used, why it is needed, who will be sharing it and how it will be safeguarded.
  • Don’t give your credit card number on the telephone, by Email, or to a voice mailbox, unless you know the person on the other end or it was you that initiated the communication.
  • Choose difficult passwords — not your mother’s maiden name. Memorize them, change them often. Don’t write them down and leave them in your wallet, or some equally obvious place.
  • Be careful what you throw out. Burn or shred personal financial information, receipts, insurance forms, etc. Insist that businesses you deal with do the same.

Don’t be cajoled, intimidated or manipulated into providing personal information. If your gut tells you something is not right, listen to it. Your decision not to provide this information may save you thousands of dollars and hours of aggravation and grief.

What is defamation?

Defamation is an untrue statement about a person that damages the person’s reputation. The communication must be made to other people, not just to the person it’s about.

However, the law will not protect you from an insult or a statement that may hurt your feelings. So, if someone calls you fat and ugly your feelings may be hurt but its probably not enough to sue. The law protects your reputation against defamation. If someone defames you by saying that you rob your customers or cheat on charities when this is, in fact, not true, you can sue the person for money to compensate you for your damaged reputation.

There are two types of defamation: Libel and Slander.

Llibel is defamation that has a permanent record, like an Email, newspaper article, a picture, a radio or TV broadcast or a letter.

Slander is defamation that has no permanent record. Normally it’s a verbal statement.

Sometimes, even a good case on the facts may not win at trial because the courts must balance other rights, such as free speech.

So, if you want to always play it safe, remember what mamma used to say: “If you don’t have something nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all.”

Charter of Rights and Freedoms

The Canadian Charter is part of Canada’s constitution and as citizens it bears reviewing from time to time.

The Charter guarantees your freedoms and rights, including:

  • Fundamental freedoms of association , conscience and religion ; thought, belief, opinion, and expression, including freedom of the press and other media
  • Democratic rights – such as the right to vote
  • Mobility rights –guarantees the right to live and work anywhere in Canada
  • Legal rights to life, liberty, and security of the person, to be free from unreasonable search or seizure, access to a lawyer if you are arrested; and to be presumed innocent
  • Equality rights –ensures equal benefit and protection of the law without discrimination based on personal traits such as race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability

The Charter is intended to protect the rights and freedoms of Canadians. If a court decides that a law, or part of a law, violates the Charter, that law, or that part of the law, is not valid.

The Charter applies only to violations of rights that are caused by government. So before you can claim the Charter’s protection, you must show that your rights were denied by government or some agency very closely connected to government.

Charter rights are not absolute. If a court finds a government has denied your rights, the court must then decide if the government had a good reason to deny the rights. The court must decide whether the denial of a Charter right is reasonable and justified in a free and democratic society. To do that, the court looks at whether the government has an important purpose in denying your right.

Erosion of privacy rights?

We are being watched. Recording devices are everywhere: From street corners and retail outlets to satellites in the sky. But did you know the car you drive may be spying on you too?

If you are driving a vehicle built after 1993, chances are it contains an “Event Data Recorder” (“EDR”).

The device records speed and braking in the event of an accident and deployment of the airbag. Newer devices can record whether the driver’s seatbelt was fastened at the time the airbag deployed. You may have one of these devices installed in your car and not know about it. What’s more, your insurance company may be able to use the data contained in the device to contradict what you say about an accident.

Each attempt to gain access to personal data or information is a potential threat to privacy.

Is this a further erosion of our legal rights, another spy in our private lives? Or is it reasonable for the police or insurance companies to use this information when investigating an accident?

The answer will depend upon the facts of a particular case. If you have a claim with an insurance company and are concerned about privacy issues, consult a lawyer.

Arbitration of Disability Claims

Arbitration is useful when one side or the other (or both) prefer to have someone neutral decide the matter for them. This usually occurs if one party or both refuses to compromise on any issue.

Arbitration often works well for commercial and business disputes.

Arbitration is more formal than mediation, but less formal than court. You and the other side agree in advance on the rules for the arbitration process (for example, what kind of evidence can be introduced, will witnesses be allowed to testify, how much time will be set aside for each side to present its case, etc).

The arbitrator listens to the evidence you each present and then makes a decision. In many cases, it is agreed beforehand that whatever the arbitrator decides is final and binding. This means you cannot have the decision reviewed or changed and must live with the outcome.

Due to the high costs of trial, the associated delays and the unexpected outcomes, in most cases, settling your case through negotiation, mediation or arbitration is preferable than risking it all and going to court.

 

Small Claims Court or the Supreme Court of British Columbia – You Decide

When you are faced with a legal problem, try and settle the claim. Remember, settling a claim involves compromise on both sides.

If a compromise cannot be reached, you can go to court and have a judge decide the legal issue.

Generally speaking, there are two levels of courts that deal with legal disputes:

The Provincial Court Small Claims Division and The Supreme Court of British Columbia

There are advantages and disadvantages to both.

The advantages of small claims court include:

  • a relatively short time to wait for a trial (about 8 months);
  • shorter trials (usually half a day);
  • relatively low costs; and
  • a mandatory settlement conference in front of a judge to try to settle the case.

The main disadvantage is that a judge cannot award more than $25,000.

The advantages of the Supreme Court of British Columbia include

    • No monetary limit on what you can claim;
    • Rules that provide for wider access to documents controlled by the other side; and
    • Your right (in most cases) to have the matter heard by a jury

The main disadvantages are:

  • A long wait for a trial date (up to 2 years)
  • Longer trials (usually 3 to 7 days in length)
  • Higher costs

Remember, before you decide WHERE to start a lawsuit, you must know WHEN to start a lawsuit. There are strict time limits and if you miss the time limit, you lose your right to sue. Don’t hesitate to consult a lawyer.